TED Conversations

David Hamilton


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Why can't I watch a funny cartoon about Muhammad? On South Park 201...

For those of you unfamiliar with the television show South Park... I don't blame you. In the first few years it ran, it was the most sophomoric, and disgusting show on television, but it was also a funny, guilty pleasure. As the artists who created this show grew older, it maintained the ability to give you a cheap laugh, but also became an outlet of real integrity.

In episode 201, they decided to tackle the topic of censorship, in one of the most raunchy, and disgusting tales ever concieved. In this episode, a child, feeds another child chilli, made from his deceased parents, and that is not censored. Jesus watches internet porn, whild Buddha does lines of cocaine off of a mirror... and no one felt any reason to censor that image... A picture of Muhammad however... That was censored, as was this speech.

Kyle to Tom Cruise

Mohammed's just some made up guy like Jesus and Santa Claus, that means people can believe anything they want about him: like you can't show him or hear his voice. But Tom Cruise is a real person, even though he is a celebrity. And if Tom Cruise believes people are making fun of him, well for him, that's real, just like some people's beliefs about Mohammed seem real to them.

Jesus talking to the Gingers:
You believed the goo was real, so real that you were ready to kill people for your beliefs. You were letting your imaginations run wild, and real people, not imaginary ones could have been hurt.

Santa Claus to everyone:
I know it can be hard when someone tries to ruin your image- like Coca-Cola giving me this stupid red suit and fat belly- but your real and don't have to accept the things people say about you as true. Just like we don't have to believe that showing Mohammed will bring a Muslim holy war to South Park.

I think this censorship is absurd. The creators were willing to risk their lives for their art, and no one, should do anything but respect that... Why am I wrong?


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    Sep 1 2012: In France there was a satirical newspaper who printed a cover that read "special sharia edition" (it was back when Libya enforced Sharia law during the transition) with a guy (possibly Muhammad) saying "a thousand lashes if you're not dying out from laughter". The newspaper's HQ was bombed as a warning not to print out the newspaper. Charlie Hebdo did it anyway and instead of saying the humor was in poor taste or some other subjective counter-argument (I seem to recall that's what some British newspapers did), most serious French newspapers defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to print their newspapers. That is how it should go down. Stoicism in the face of violence. You cave in to threatening once, you'll get threatened again.
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      Sep 1 2012: Brilliant
    • Sep 1 2012: I agree. We cannot let anyone silence critique of an idea, religion, ideology or customs just become someone has certain feelings about the subject. Criticism is an important tool that individuals used for hundred of years to progress our society and to prevent unreasonable ideologies to control us.

      Someone being offended is unfortunate but not a good reason to withdraw a criticism. Otherwise we would have to stop criticize anything because someone will always be offended no matter what.


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